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‘Jake’s cabin’ to be dedicated at museum named for Menghini

JAKE MENGHINI MUSEUM volunteers stand in front of Jake’s cabin, built in 1874, that will be dedicated on the museum grounds in Norway from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. From left are Carol Sundstrom, Rosemary Vanpembrook, Judy Carlsen, Barb Menghini and Gayle Nicholson. (Marguerite Lanthier/Daily News photo)

NORWAY — The original cabin used to house artifacts collected by Jake Menghini will finally have a dedication ceremony on the grounds of museum that bears his name.

The dedication will be 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Jake Menghini Historical Museum, 105 Odill Drive in Norway. Light refreshments will be served. Those attending will be able to tour the cabin, as well as the other buildings.

COVID-19 delayed the original event, museum volunteer Gayle Nicholson explained. “We’re going to have the dedication ceremony and honor some people that really made it happen,” she said.

They include Ed Jasonowicz, the former board president who continued to work on funding the project even after he retired from the board; Dr. John Faust and Dr. Bill Asselin, for their generous gifts; and current president Bill Trombley, for securing the company to move the cabin.

The 1874-built cabin was moved to the museum grounds on Sept. 19, 2018, said Barb Menghini, who is married to Menghini’s nephew, Bill.

An interior section of the original cabin that housed items collected by Jake Menghini. It includes the first item Menghini ever found, a clay whiskey jug he discovered on his way home from elementary school. (Marguerite Lanthier/Daily News photo)

The log cabin was on the Holmes Farm, off the Foster City Road between Waucedah and Foster City. It was built as a halfway house to accommodate landlookers, surveyors, and mineral explorers pushing northward through the early Menominee Range. A stagecoach carried the mail to northern Dickinson County and also transported travelers over the rough road from Waucedah to Foster City and the Felch Mountain mining explorations.

Menghini later acquired the cabin in the 1960s. Barb said she remembers her husband talking about Jake and his brothers rebuilding the cabin.

“The brothers — they did everything together — he (her husband) thinks that the brothers took it down and numbered every log, every piece of wood, and came back to his property on 807 Chestnut St. He was very precise, so I can imagine that’s what he did. He studied it and studied it,” she said with a laugh, “before he actually took it apart.”

According a story passed down through the years, Menghini began his love of collecting artifacts after finding an old clay whiskey jug while walking home from McKinley Elementary School. He had more than 7,000 artifacts.

The museum is only able to display about a third of those items but will set up special rotating displays so the public eventually will be able to view all of them.

A close-up of the clay whiskey jug that was the first item collected by Jake Menghini, which he found on his way home from elementary school. (Marguerite Lanthier/Daily News photo)

Menghini had added on to the building, but the museum committee only moved the original cabin.

“I didn’t know the man until we got married and then we lived right across the street, so he was always ‘Come here, I want to show you something,'” Barb said. “It was full to the brim.”

“He was a tax assessor for like 15 years and Bill thinks he made a lot of contacts with these people when he assessed their property and he picked up a lot of things that way,” Barb said.

The theme of the cabin will be “From Indian Trails to Iron Rails” and will feature displays from the local fur trading era, logging era, and the dawning of the railroad era. Some of oldest items in his collection will be housed there, including the original jug.

Menghini served as the city’s amateur historian. He created the 75th anniversary booklet. For years he would have Norway third-graders come tour the cabin he called the Norway Museum. He would point out certain items, like the music box given to Nona Johnason Quist as Christmas present in 1887 that survived the Norway fire. Menghini also served as a fire tower-man for the Michigan Department of Conservation for 20 years and he used his knowledge to describe to the children how the old fire system worked in the city, said Nicholson, who was a third-grade teacher in Norway-Vulcan schools.

August “Jake” Menghini was born March 23, 1913, and died Aug. 14, 1996. After his death, his museum was purchased by the Brackett Memorial Trust Fund.

Dedicating the cabin on the museum site is a fitting memorial to Menghini, who “just loved Norway,” Barb said.

The museum would appreciate comments and memories from former students who toured the museum. They can be sent to 105 Odill Drive, P.O. Box 99, Norway, MI 49870.

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